On Wednesday, VK, a Russian internet group, launched a homemade app store. It is among the latest in a Kremlin-endorsed drive to build a cohort of domestic digital services to replace western rivals.

VK often anointed as Russia’s Facebook announced that a beta version of the store called RuStore has been made available for Android users from Wednesday.

Apple and Google of Alphabet Inc, the two most prominent app stores worldwide, have limited their access to Russian users in response to Moscow’s “special operation” in Ukraine.

Consequently, Kremlin is pushing for rapid development of domestic digital alternatives and has ramped up its years-long campaign to exert control over the web, limiting access to western platforms, including Google News, Twitter, and Meta’s platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

VK, which Gazprom Media partly owns, holds a host of online services from food delivery and social media platforms. Recently, it has emerged as a leader in the race to replace western services in Russia.

Why is RuStore Essential for Russia?

VK developed RuStore with the support of the Russian Ministry of digital development, communications, and mass media, along with Yandex, a Russian tech firm, Sberbank, the country’s prominent lender, and Kaspersky Lab, a cybersecurity firm.

“Building a Russian ap store is essential considering the current market conditions,” said Maksut Shadaev, minister of communications and media, announcing the launch.

According to VK, more than 100 apps were available on the RuStore at launch, including various government services. And more apps are joining every day.

“I am certain that RuStore will be in demand among both developers and users. It has all the things it needs to become a major app store in Russia,” said Vladimir Kiriyenko, CEO of VK.

Confronting an exodus of IT experts in the first weeks of Russia’s “Special military operation” in Ukraine, the Russian government promised income tax breaks and preferential lendings for tech firms and a deferral of military service for employees as a big to keep them in Russia.

Russian politicians are also encouraging people to switch to domestic providers.

More About RuStore

After launching RuMarket and NashStore, both last month, RuStore is the third Russian catalog for android phones. Online reports suggest that despite its unassuming moniker, it seems better than everything else available. Though it is not anywhere close to Google Play, it seems like a decent app store with an easy-to-use design with standard apps.

It has more than 180 applications available for store users. It includes entertainment apps like IVI, Okko, Rutube, financial apps like Sberbank Online, Alfa-Bank, VTB Online, and online stores like AliExpress, Wildberries, OZON, and food delivery services like Delivery Club, Vkusvill, and Burger King. In addition, it also has two dozens of different mobile games.

The government would likely make it essential for cellphones to preinstall RuStore to be sold in Russia, allowing its people to have access to important apps and make purchases within.

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